Keith Ricken: 'We don't want to bring them back to earth, we want them to fly'

Cork U20 football manager hails his players and refuses to criticise the ref after an epic battle with Kerry
Keith Ricken: 'We don't want to bring them back to earth, we want them to fly'

Dara Dorgan of Cork in action against Owen Fitzgerald of Kerry during the EirGrid Munster U20  semi-final match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

CORK U20 manager Keith Ricken wants his talented group of young footballers to keep flying high after a thrilling Munster semi-final victory over Kerry.

A late point by sub Ciarán O'Sullivan gave the Rebels the win and a trip to Tipperary next Thursday for the provincial decider. Cork prevailed 3-12 to 3-11 but only after Kerry roared back from seven points down and the home side was reduced to 14.

"They're up in the air now, they're flying," Ricken told TG4. "Quite often people say 'we must bring them back down to earth' but it takes a long time to get 15 or 20 fellas up off the ground. We don't want to bring them back down to earth now we want to get them flying, keep them motoring."

While U20 is clearly a development grade, winning is part of that process.

"They set the goals for this. 

Part of the development is to try and turn them from boys to men and it's a transitional period.

"The goals were that by hook or by crook we'd get through. We're trying to work on our performance and get the performance right but ultimately championship is about results, it's a results-driven game and our job is to get results.

"All we're onto is the next stage of the ladder, which has four steps if we're trying to win an All-Ireland, which is what they've set out to do. If it's the Munster championship we're now onto the second step and we're delighted but there's been nothing won."

The northsider refused to criticise referee Joe Hayes for his decisions, which included the harsh dismissal of Conor O'Donovan and awarding a penalty to Kerry.

"We have a few sore bodies. It was hard to get a free there in the last few minutes so it was tough going. It was tough for the referee because it was very warm out there.

"I have great and utmost respect for any man who togs out to go in the middle. The ref was the nearest man to it and his umpires were so I'd never question the referee's decision really as such because it's disrespectful to him and everyone else.

"There were decisions both ways you could argue the toss but he's doing it in real-time and it's a lonely ole spot. He called it as he saw it. I might not have agreed with every decision but then I didn't agree with every decision we made or every decision that they made. Such is life."

Conor Corbett, scorer of 2-4, was the official Man of the Match, while dual stars Jack Cahalane and Brian Hayes matched the impact they had for the Cork U20 hurlers last weekend in the All-Ireland win over Dublin, but Ciarán O'Sullivan popped up with the winner.

"Ciarán is a great guy and all those lads are great guys. 

Cork is a phenomenal size of a county and to try to get it down to 30-odd players is a hard job in itself. 

"Given the situation the whole country is in made it even harder. These guys really stepped up to it.

"Were surprised when Ciarán came on and got the winner? We weren't, he's capable of doing that.

"We've 19 of our panel, of 36, are underage again next year. From a developmental point of view it's excellent. Ronan McCarthy is looking to see who can make the step up again to senior."

Keith Ricken. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Keith Ricken. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ricken emphatised with Kerry forward Paul O'Shea, who missed a great opportunity to force extra time.

"You look at it and you'd say 'we hate Kerry' or hate whoever but you admire everyone who plays sport. There's a lot of anti-sport things going on in Irish society and that's the thing we should be hating. Paul O'Shea is in a good county and a good set-up and he's going to develop. 

"Like every young fella that took shots that didn't drop...I've always great pride in fellas who go out and represent their county. They don't make excuses not to be here they go out and do it. Both teams. It's a very safe learning ground, the worst you'll do is lose a match.

"Sport is a safe environment to learn about life."

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